During the Chattanooga Rotary Club’s weekly Thursday meeting, the club members were exposed to what could be the end of extreme partisanship in American politics.
Zach Wamp and Harold Ford Jr. are no strangers to politics, with both men serving in Congress for extended periods of time. Despite Mr. Wamp being a staunch Republican and Mr. Ford being entrenched in the Democratic Party, both men realized the importance of cooperation between people with differing political views. They joined together in opposition of the polarized nature of modern-day American politics.
“We neither believe any party has an exclusive ownership on integrity or ideals,” said Mr. Wamp, “We really believe the two party system has provided a lot of good. We really desire, at the federal level, people who are putting the party above the country.”
Their organization, Issue One, is devoted to bringing unity back into politics. Comprised of nearly 200 former congressmen, governors, and politicians from a broad spectrum of political views, the organization is attempting to break down the partisanship so prevalent in politics. While Mr. Ford said there used to be some level of partnership, this has evaporated in recent days.
“You hear it all the time, and it sounds like a nice little slogan or cliché,” said Mr. Ford of working with people from ‘across the aisle,’ “and I certainly had that experience in politics. But we don’t have that anymore, and I don’t know how we get back there.”
In concert with this point, Mr. Wamp railed against the vitriol the two political extremes direct toward one another. In his eyes, such malice actually benefits those who partake in it.
“We used to hear that crime doesn’t pay,” said the speaker, “But in today’s culture in today’s airwaves, hate pays. I hate to say it, but it’s true.”
He continued by telling the Rotary Club about the need for their elected officials to step outside of the shadow and vote based upon their own principles.
“They just become part of a team and they become controlled,” said Mr. Wamp, “I will tell you, that in the last 10 days (while the impeachment hearings have been going on), I have told Bill Haggarty and another to be their own person and stand on their own two feet for what they believe. Where is the leadership today? Where is it, if we don’t encourage them to speak, to be true leaders, and to put their country above their party. Those are harsh words, but they’re true.”
The more liberal Mr. Ford ‘walked the walk’ by taking a moderate stance on President Trump, who is currently embroiled in an impeachment hearing.
“He is the personification of where the country is politically right now,” said Mr. Ford. “You look at Trump, he’s been a Democrat and a Republican. In some ways, he is what politics is going toward. He at least is big in many ways, and thinks big. I give him credit for that. So to beat him, it’s going to take someone who is big and is bold.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Wamp was much more critical of the president who represents his party.
“We need a reset,” said Mr. Wamp. “Donald Trump is not the problem. His very presidency is a result of the problem. Our system is so screwed up that we were in for a disruption. Nobody wanted a Bush or a Clinton.”
The two men believe that training high-school and college students, the future politicians of America, was the key to the rehabilitation of the political system. Using Issue One, these younger citizens would learn how to work with others while solving problems, something Mr. Wamp believed the current president could do more of.
“We need a new generation and new mindset of public service,” said Mr. Wamp, “We believe Issue one is uniquely prepared to begin the national discussion of what is acceptable. Because I don’t care who the president is, it’s not acceptable to treat people the way they’re being treated today.”